(WFI) FIFA claims to be “extremely satisfied” with the quality of refereeing at the World Cup and says the use of video assistant referees (VAR) has been a success.

The new technology is in place at the World Cup for the first time and has been consulted on several occasions over the first week of games.

The introduction of the video review has coincided with a greater number of penalties being awarded. Through the first week of the competition, 10 penalties had been given, matching the total for the entire group stage in 2014.

VAR may not be infallible though. The criticism it has received comes mainly from Brazil where they believe Switzerland’s goal in a 1-1 draw should have been disallowed. England has also had some skeptics on VAR who wonder why contact by Tunisia defenders on Harry Kane on set pieces did not earn a penalty.

Japanese and Senegalese clean fans

Japanese football fans have displayed in Russia their reputation as one of the politest supporters at World Cups.

On Monday after their national team stunned Colombia with a 2-1 victory, the Japanese fans were recorded cleaning up the Mordovia Arena in the city of Saransk.

The Samurai Blue supporters were seen not only cleaning up after themselves but also, to the surprise of the opposing fans, cleaning what the Colombians had left behind in the South American section of the stadium.

The Japanese use bin bags they’ve specifically brought into the ground for that purpose. They made headlines around the world with a similar display of tidiness during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Japanese tradition of cleaning up after themselves seems to have started a trend as later on Monday Senegalese fans were also seen picking up garbage at the stadium where their national team beat Poland.

Both contingents of Asian and African supporters certainly have helped the 15,000 volunteers who are working on the 2018 World Cup.

The tournament’s cleanest supporters will come face-to-face when Japan and Senegal meet in the city of Ekaterinburg on June 24.

The winner of that match will be almost  a spot through to the next round.

U.S. television audiences on the rise

In the United States, television audiences for the World Cup have reached new heights despite the absence of their national team in Russia.

The Mexico-Germany match last Sunday was the most-watched sporting event in the history of Telemundo, the Spanish-language network broadcasting the tournament.

The game drew an average audience of 6.56 million viewers, and across all platforms, including digital, Telemundo’s coverage had an average audience of 7.4 million, and it peaked at eight million.

On the English-language side, Fox Sports drew just more than four million TV viewers for the Mexico-Germany contest and 4.09 million for Brazil-Switzerland later Sunday. Both are the largest audiences for soccer on an English-language network since 2016.

Through Sunday, Fox Sports was averaging 2.24 million viewers a game, an audience the network says  is 32 percent higher than what ABC/ESPN got for the group stages of previous World Cups, excluding U.S. games.

FIFA investigates Mexican anti-gay chant

Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of the LBGTQ sports website Outsports.com, claims FIFA isn’t doing enough to stop the homophobic chant by the Mexican fans heard constantly during the Sunday match between their national team and Germany

“They have to stop matches,” Zeigler said. “That’s the only thing that’s going to stop it.”

FIFA says it has adopted a new anti-discrimination procedure for the World Cup. Referees are instructed to stop the game for an announcement on the public-address system when discriminatory behavior is seen or heard. If it continues, the official can suspend the game.

That protocol was not used during the Mexican victory against the defending world champions.

The Mexican Football Federation has been repeatedly fined by FIFA over fans chanting the slur while players have urged their supporters to stop the homophobic chant through public statements but the practice has remained.

Homepage photo: FIFA

By INSIDER Javier Monne

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